28 May 2015

‘Surely it’s time to say goodbye to Fifa, Mr Blatter?’

Embattled Fifa President Sepp Blatter is confronted by Keme Nzerem of Channel 4 News, minutes before giving the opening speech at the Fifa’s 65th congress in Zurich.

On his way to give the opening speech to the 65th congress of Fifa in Zurich, Sepp Blatter was approached by Keme Nzerem of Channel 4 News (see video above).

This was the first time the leader of world football’s governing body had been questioned directly since the arrests of several senior Fifa officials on Wednesday.

“Surely after all these allegations, it’s time for you to resign?” Mr Blatter was asked.”Surely it’s time for you to say goodbye to Fifa? The scandal, the corruption – you’re the boss, after all.”

Minutes later, delivering the opening speech to the congress (see video above), Mr Blatter told delegates: “You will agree with me these are unprecedented and difficult times for Fifa. The events of yesterday have cast a long shadow over football and over this week’s congress.

“The actions of individuals bring shame and humiliation on football and demand action and change from us all. We cannot allow the reputation of football and Fifa to be dragged through the mud any longer; it has to stop here and now.

Read more: Sepp Blatter - Fifa's Teflon king

“I know many people hold me ultimately responsible for the actions and reputation of the global football community, whether it is the decision for the hosting of a World Cup, or a corruption scandal. We – or I – cannot monitor everyone all of the time. If people want to do wrong, they will also try to hide it. But it must fall to me to be at the responsibility for the reputation and wellbeing of our organisation and to find a way forward to fix things.

Those who are corrupt in football are in a tiny minority… There can be no place for corruption of any kind. Sepp Blatter, Fifa president

“I will not allow the actions of a few to destroy the hard work and the integrity of the vast majority of those who work so hard for football. I must stress that those who are corrupt in football are in a tiny minority, like in society.

“But, like in society, they must be caught and held responsible for their actions. Football cannot be the exception of the rule; that is our responsibility at Fifa and we will cooperate with all authorities to make sure that anyone involved with wrongdoing from top to bottom is discovered and punished. There can be no place for corruption of any kind.

And he concluded the opening part of his speech by saying: “We have the opportunity to begin on what will be a long and difficult road to rebuilding trust. We have lost their trust… at least, a part of it. And we must now earn it back. We must earn it back through the decisions we make, through the expectations we place on each other and through the way we behave individually.”

Early today, Michel Platini told a news conference in Zurich that he had urged Mr Blatter to stand down: “We talked together in his office, and I repeated my proposal that he should leave, that he should resign, accepting that this was not a good moment, and to have the courage, the bigness of heart, to accept that it wasn’t good.

“He said to me: ‘Michel, you know we know one another well, we like one another – but it’s too late.”

Mr Platini also said a majority of Uefa’s member associations would vote for Jordan’s Prince Ali bin al-Hussein to succeed Mr Blatter as the next Fifa president.

He added: “I can tell you that tomorrow, at the election for president, a very, very, very large majority of the European national associations will vote for Prince Ali.”

Presidential election

Mr Blatter is also resisting calls to step down by FA Chairman Greg Dyke and former England striker Gary Lineker.

Prime Minister David Cameron also backed Jordan’s Prince Ali bin al-Hussein’s candidacy to be the next president of world soccer’s scandal-hit governing body Fifa.

Read more: how 'bribes' compare to Fifa spending on improving football

“The FA, and we are squarely behind the FA, supports the candidacy of Prince Ali,” a spokesman for Mr Cameron told reporters. An election for the role, in which incumbent Mr Blatter is expected to be re-elected for a fifth term, could take place on Friday, but there have been calls to postpone it.

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale also told MPs the arrests were “shocking in both their scope and scale” but they were also “far from surprising”. He said the government fully supported the FA’s position that significant and wide-ranging reforms are urgently needed at the top of Fifa, including “a change in its leadership”.

Mr Whittingdale welcomed the investigations into the allegations of bribery and corruption, adding he backed Uefa’s call for a postponement of the presidential contest.

Russia World Cup

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that the United States was meddling in Fifa’s affairs in an attempt to take the 2018 World Cup away from his country.

He said: “I have not a doubt of this, an obvious attempt to prevent Mr Blatter’s re-election to the Fifa president post, which is a gross violation of the principle of functioning of international organizations.

“As for the arrests, they look at least very strange, because they have been made at the request of the American side on corruption charges.”

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko also said that there was “no risk” of Russia losing the right to host the 2018 World Cup after Swiss investigators opened a criminal investigation into the bidding process.